Day 26: trans-oceanic glider

Last night I suffered a similar problem to that which befell an Airbus crossing the Atlantic a while ago. Due to poor maintenance a hydraulic line rubbed against a fuel pipe, causing it to rupture mid-flight. The crew watched in horror as their fuel gauges steadily wound down to zero, then the engines stopped. This isn’t really what you want in the middle of the night halfway across the ocean. Incredibly they manged to carry out the longest-ever glide in an airliner of a hundred miles or so, and succeeded in landing on the only island in the area. I can’t remember which – it might have been one the Azores – but they only had one shot at it and thanks to their skill everyone survived.

OK, so my situation wasn’t quite as dire, but I’d noticed over the last couple of days that my fresh water pump didn’t stop cycling when I turned it on. Normally it’ll pressurize the system then stop, so this implied that I was losing pressure, and thereby water. That’s precisely the reason I don’t leave the pump on all the time, only turning it on when I want to run a tap, otherwise a small leak somewhere would rapidly drain my tanks.

Once again I had to go poking around in dark damp spaces, and eventually found that the steel steering cable had been rubbing against a copper water pipe until it wore right through it, hence the leak. Checking the whole steering system again I found that everything was fine with it, but the cable must have been aligned differently in order to have come into contact with the pipe, which was well-secured and didn’t look as though it had moved.

I can only surmise that perhaps that loose steering pulley which I fixed had actually come adrift ages ago, and by repairing it I moved the cable into a position where it could touch the pipe. I guess I’ll never know, but at least I found it before all my lovely fresh water was pumped into the bilge. Believe me, bilge water is not something you want to drink, even if very thirsty indeed!

So, another day, another maintenance issue. I’m really glad I spent so long getting to know the boat before setting sail as so far I’ve been able to find and fix everything that’s broken fairly easily, so let’s hope it stays that way.

Other than that the last day has been lovely, with the fresh south-westerly breeze strengthening during the night so we’re now charging along at 6-7 knots, making excellent progress in exactly the right direction. The sun is shining in a clear blue sky and the barometer has risen to 1031mb so I assume I’m now safely into the Azores high, a large area of high pressure which stretches from the Iberian peninsula to Bermuda and is a permanent feature of the North Atlantic, just edging slightly north or south depending on season.

The Azores are now the closest land, being just over 200 miles to the south-east of me, so if I wanted to I could be there in a couple of days. However with a perfect wind and France just over 1,400 miles ahead of me I see no need to stop. The lure of fine wines and smelly cheese is proving too strong to resist!

It’ll be strange seeing land again after so long at sea, in fact it’ll be strange seeing anything at all that isn’t blue. I haven’t seen a ship for a couple of days now, and still can’t believe I haven’t seen a single yacht since leaving Florida, but then one of my sailing books rather snootily comments that only a suicidal skipper would contemplate an ocean crossing in hurricane season. Hopefully I’m far enough east now to be clear of any more Irenes, but you never know…

Right, time for my siesta, then back to the sewing. Luckily I haven’t torn any more sails today so I think I’m slowly gaining on myself!

This entry was posted in Atlantic crossing. Bookmark the permalink.